The Kia & Hyundai Challenge: Could It Spread to The UK?

What Kia and Hyindai Challenge you ask? Well it’s deadly simple really. Older Kia and Hyundai models in the USA lack electronic immobilisers, so You Tubers and TikTokkers have been merrily making videos for a year or so. These clips show how easy it is to strip off the ignition barrel trim, then insert a usb cable to start the car.

The results have been shocking for US Kia and Hyundai owners. Some 19% of all vehicles stolen in Indianapolis in January 2023 were Kia or Hyundai cars. The usual 2021-22 batting average for those two brands was just 4%. Owners are now finding that US insurance brands are cancelling cover, as the risk is too high. Other insurers have offered free steering locks to policyholders to try and stem the tide of theft. It could help for sure.

But the solution is retro-fitting a modern ignition system that immobilises the car once an attempt is made to by-pass the wiring, or the car fails to recognise the key code. That’s a task for the manufacturers, not insurers.


According to Wikipedia one of the big factors in this targeting of vehicle thefts is the #KiaChallenge hashtag on TikTok. So instead of pro thieves stealing high value cars for parts or resale abroad, TikTokkers are essentially playing a game amongst themselves, to see who is smarter than the ignition systems on various Kia and Hyundai models.

That social media game is a trend which could spread to the UK and of course, it may be a VW Golf/Audi A3 Challenge hashtag one day. So insurers would be wise to monitor social media channels using something like hashtags, Google alerts and checking Google Trends for search volumes locally. IE checked Google Trends for Kia Challenge and the top region was Scotland over the last 90 days. But that could be down to regional media coverage of course.


The UK spec Kia and Hyundai vehicles from the last decade or so generally do have immobilisers, so it isn’t easy to by-pass the ignition system. That said some owners have posted on the UK Kia owners firum that their keyless entry vehicles have been stolen – despite the key being inside a lockbox or Faraday pouch.


The other trend worth noting in the UK is vehicles being stripped for parts, as supply chain problems continue to slow down repairs. It is now common for many owners of mainstream brands like Kia, Hyundai, BMW, VW, Toyota, Nissan etc to wait weeks, sometimes months for crucial spares to arrive. That demand is being filled by thieves, who can see an opportunity to sell “refurbished” parts on sites like Gumtree or FB marketplace, where very few questions about ownership seems to be the norm.

The Daily Mail reported that several car owners in the Birmingham and West Mids areas had found their cars stripped of parts. Generally these pro thieves are taking their time to remove bonnets, front bumpers, doors, headlamps – all the stuff that is typically damaged in a front end collision at about 30-40mph.

Cars range from the Citroen C1 to a 40K Merc E Class, so it’s driven by very specific requests for parts, not the value of the vehicle itself.

The stripping of cars by expert thieves can only survive if there are chop shops processing, labelling and selling the spares onwards to smaller repair specialists, garages and keen amateur car dealers looking to buy damaged or older cars and do them up. The Uk still sees large volumes of complete cars being stolen and then stripped for spares later, not in the street. It’s lower risk for the thieves of course.

Perhaps the long term solution could be accurate layered mapping of industrial estates, where high amounts of electricity, heating, plus power tool use and noise all suggest late night activity. It would be a complex task to overlay that location data with various other pieces of data like ANPR plates, towing truck or low loader frequency by street, heat signals by the hour, social media adverts for spares posted within say 3 weeks of vehicles being reported stolen locally etc.

Employing a team of people to analyse all the strands of data would be too expensive. But by joining the data dots, then using AI to look for patterns, maybe the insurance industry can resolve the majority of car thefts in the UK by closing down the market for parts?




About alastair walker 11354 Articles
20 years experience as a journalist and magazine editor. I'm your contact for press releases, events, news and commercial opportunities at Insurance-Edge.Net

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